Quilt Volume 2

Page 1

VOLUME 2 | 2022

QUILT UNB ELON G I N G


Editor’s Note Pieces from authors on staff appear in this issue of Quilt. It should be known that we select pieces using a completely anonymous method, in which staff members who recognize an author’s work must leave the room or not partake in the selection process. I swear by and believe in this integral process that objectively features the best work that we have received. This also marks the end of the road for me; Quilt will be handed over to a new set of Co-Editors-in-Chief—Fiona Mulrooney and Sam Goodale— the first non-founders to run the publication. I couldn’t be happier about it. Cheers to new roads. To new paths. To new pages. Quilt forever. —Daniel Green, Co-Founder & Editor-in-Chief 2020-2022


For Daniel Daniel Green co-founded Quilt with Larissa Zhong and Kelsey Watt in tandem with the English Department Student Council in 2020. In May 2021, he posted Volume 1 alone in his apartment, with Facebook Messenger open on the other tab, where Larissa—indisposed to travel because ofthe COVID-19 pandemic—celebrated the team’s accomplishment with him. When Larissa stepped down to work as an editorial board member, Green returned as the sole Editor-in-Chief in fall of 2021. With his leadership (and loosening COVID-19 restrictions), Quilt took shape as a space for interdisciplinary fellowship. His unflagging devotion to sincerity, honest writing, creativity, and community inspired members to redefine their roles at Quilt, as Queen’s students, and as individuals. He is leaving us after graduating with a BAH in English Language & Literature this May 2022. Quilt, for all its years, will be indebted to Daniel Green for its foundation in genuine love for literature, the people who write it, the people who read it, and the people who live it. Thank you. From the heart, 2021-2022 Quilt Executive Team


Written by Omar El Akkad

FOREWORD


There is a word that, unless you grew up in a very specific part of the world, exists between languages and has no formal definition. In its past-tense verb form, the closest English-letter approximation is “It’fanesh.” As in: “Where’s Ahmed? I haven’t seen him in a while.” “Oh, you didn’t know? It’fanesh.” I first heard this word as a child, after I moved to Qatar, the tiny emirate on the eastern edge of the Arabian Gulf. Pound for pound, Qatar is perhaps the richest country on earth, and as a result, the vast majority of its population comes from elsewhere—workers from all over the planet flocking to cash in on the oil and gas money. In order to protect that wealth, however, the Qatari government makes it exceedingly difficult for anyone to obtain citizenship. If you live in Qatar, chances are you live there as a temporary worker, subject to a “sponsorship” by a local resident or company – a sponsorship that, if revoked, results in immediate deportation. That’s what the word means. It’fanesh: Sponsorship revoked; a person deported, shipped away. It was a word that hovered at all times under our lives, a trap door, ready to spring. A reminder that this, whatever it was, would never really be home. If you’re very lucky, belonging is a negation: an absence of anxiety about where or what you come from, the coherence of the pieces that make you. Otherwise, it exists as a teetering construction, a thing that cannot be ignored lest it tilt and tumble. So much of the work in this issue is architecture of teetering constructions, from Michelle Zeng’s short meditation on the distance of language, “i tried to speak chinese, but” to Larissa Zhong’s “skeletons in the forest,” which picks snippets of memory from “the ruins of our childhood.” There are so many excellent pieces here, in prose, poetry and essay form, about the myriad meanings of unbelonging, the many ways in which the tower threatens to fall. It’s a privilege to read these pieces knowing that they likely mark the early stages of what will be some exceptional literary careers. As a child, I thought It’fanesh was an Arabic word. It was used almost exclusively by Arabic speakers, and in that way the mother tongue begins as intuition, it always just sounded Arabic. Years later, my father told me it is in fact a corruption of the English word “Finish.” As in, “You’re finished.” It seems apt, in a way. To be cast between cultures is, in my experience, to feel forever unfinished, forever absent an ending, even when endings arrive.




TABLE OF C 8

I tried to speak Chinese, but by Michelle Zeng

10

38

18

Skeletons in the Forest by Larissa Zhong

20

Diasporic Mothers & Daughters Written by Larissa Zhong

48

Poetic Interiority in Rose Macaulay’s “The Shadow”: Contrasting Civilian and Soldier Experiences in World War I

Untitled for Now by Audra Crago

by Mariel Matsuda

42

Neverending

by Madeleine Vigneron

52

Powder Bluw

by Harrison Stuart


CONTENTS 24

0

34

What It Is

by Audra Crago

The King Of Ithaca Reaps What He Sows by Madeleine Vigneron

26

Ghost

By Sapphyre Smith

“Daddy Lessons” & Daddy Issues: Verse and Gendered Trauma in Beyoncé’s Lemonade by Ashanthi Francis

w

58

66

Return of the Gaze in George Egerton’s “Now Spring Has Come” by Emery Stayzer

64

Public Masturbation in Dublin by Fiona Mulrooney

68

We must be even, if we are here by Urooj Salar

A Storm in Summer by Urooj Salar


the words fell off my tongue like the filling from a tangbao skin inflections leaking out the sides spilling broth down my chin my throat burned but i swallowed the sound.

BUT

I TRIE D

Written by Michelle Zeng Illustrated by karen au

, SE

AK CH E P S INE O T


11



DIASPORIC MOTHERS & DAUGHTERS Written by Larissa Zhong Illustrated by Lauren Bale Diasporic identity is scarcely singular, yet Gianna Patriarca’s poetry collection Italian Women and Other Tragedies and Souvankham Thammavongsa’s short story collection How to Pronounce Knife share particularly striking similarities in their portrayals of diasporic mothers and daughters. The domestic space of home shapes the shared psychological space between mother and daughter. In these spaces, the mother is emblematic of home and home culture, the mother tongue is used to denote intimacy, and storytelling is a mechanism that strives to transcend the aperture between generations of women. The tie of women to the domestic space thus defines the feminine diasporic experience in Patriarca’s “Mother Tells Me Stories” and “For Grandma in Bed, Waiting,” and Thammavongsa’s “Edge of the World” and “You Are So Embarrassing,” using mother-daughter relationships as a vehicle for reconciling the physical and psychological dimensions of diasporic space. While Patriarca’s poetry reaches for intergenerational and diasporic connections between women, Thammavongsa’s short stories ultimately mar these connections. Patriarca and Thammavongsa each align mothers with the domestic space, portraying them as emblems of home and home culture. James Clifford writes in his extended essay, minimalistically titled “Diasporas,” When diasporic experience is viewed in terms of … disarticulation rather than rearticulation, then the experiences of men will tend to predominate … Women’s experiences are particularly revealing. Do diaspora experiences reinforce or loosen gender subordination? On the one hand, maintaining connections with homelands, with kinship networks, and with religious and cultural traditions may renew patriarchal structures. (Clifford 313–314) For example, the parties in Thammavongsa’s “Edge of the World” are microcosms of the Lao diaspora in Canada, one that the principal character’s parents attend to connect to their diasporic community, stressing Clifford’s notion of the androcentric diasporic experience. While the father is “at the centre of these parties” (Thammavongsa 97), both figuratively as the center of attention and physically located in the living room, the mother bears mere witness from the kitchen. She tells her daughter about “what each dish was and how it was supposed to be cooked” (97). The physical space of the living room represents the public sphere. It sharply juxtaposes the kitchen, which brims with pots and pans and represents the domestic sphere to which the mother is relegated, thus renewing the patriarchal structures

13


Clifford broaches in his essay. As the father connects with other Lao refugees and builds diasporic community ties based on their shared experiences in Canada, their host country, the mother expresses her diasporic identity through a longing for cultural food: “She pointed out that some of the key ingredients were missing and said that none of the dishes could live up to her memory of the real thing. She said the food in Laos just tasted better and that maybe someday when I was older we could go back and visit. She said all this to me in Lao” (97). In the mother’s gendered diasporic space, she is only intimately connected to her daughter, with whom she shares her desire to return to their homeland and her attachment to Lao food. This suggests that, for the principal character of “Edge of the World,” her mother, rather than her father, embodies her sense of home and attachment to home culture. When her mother leaves the home, the speaker is thrown into disequilibrium, and the text grows rife with underpinnings of loneliness and isolation, revealing that the mother had been the very embodiment of home and belonging for the speaker and, when she leaves, she takes this sense of belonging with her. The mother in Patriarca’s “Mother Tells Me Stories” and the grandmother in “For Grandma in Bed, Waiting” are similarly emblematic of home for the speaker. In “Mother Tells Me Stories,” the mother contains the speaker’s childhood memories in “Ceprano … Via Alfieri” and retells them “by a fire place” (Patriarca 35). Much like the mother in Thammavongsa’s “Edge of the World,” the mother here is simultaneously aligned with both home as a physical, domestic space—denoted by the fireplace—and home as the root of their diasporic identity. The poem, then, is a microcosm of the psychological and physical space of home the mother creates for the speaker. However, the central difference between “Mother Tells Me Stories” and “Edge of the World” lies in the mother’s ultimate choice to continue or cease furnishing the speaker’s psychological space with a sense of home. Patriarca’s speaker in “Mother Tells Me Stories” “want[s] to scream ‘I don’t [remember]’” (35), but the mother continues to reach for a connection with her daughter, which predicates their mother-daughter relationship as well as the speaker’s connection to her Italian heritage and diasporic identity. In “For Grandma in Bed, Waiting,” the speaker uses the metaphor of self-seeding flowers to describe her grandmother’s anchoring role in the family: “[you] gave eight children to this world / and scattered thirty grandchildren / like wild flowers in foreign cities” (36). Motherhood and childbearing are often related, and, in this passage, Patriarca entwines them to rearticulate the diasporic experience from a feminine perspective. The speaker places emphasis on the physical space of the room—“this suburban bungalow … room with one window” (36)— in a way that draws attention to the grandmother’s relegation to the domestic home. The specification of a suburban bungalow is interesting: in metropolises like Greater Toronto, suburbs often exist as distinct residential communities within commuting distance to the locus of bustling business and recreation. This physical geography mimics the figurative

14


structure of diasporic communities in relation to their homelands and home cultures, also imitating the self-seeding flower and its scattered seeds. Thus, “For Grandma in Bed, Waiting” poses a particularly stark contrast to “Edge of the World” through the use of space and mobility: while the granddaughter enters her grandmother’s domestic space to connect more intimately with her, the mother in “Edge of the World” leaves the domestic space she shares with her daughter behind. Patriarca and Thammavongsa depict intimacy in relation to home language as well, playing on the idea of mothers and mother tongues to make an argument for the psychological spaces created by language. The mother tongue is inherently intimate because it is the language we are raised in and the first language we learn to express ourselves in, and the vocabulary, grammar, and sentence structures unique to each language profoundly shape our synaptic pathways and define the underpinnings of our thought (Macfarlane; Klein et al.). The mothers in Patriarca’s “Mother Tells Me Stories” and Thammavongsa’s “You Are So Embarrassing” and “Edge of the World” use their home language intimately when speaking to their daughters. For example, the last line of “Mother Tells Me Stories” is simply “bimba” (Patriarca 35), meaning ‘little girl’ in Italian. ‘Bimba’ is in italics while the rest of the poem is not, suggesting that the word is whispered, echoed, or otherwise significant. Leah Williams Veazey, a sociology research associate at the University of Sydney, wrote her doctoral dissertation, “Navigating the Intersections of Migration and Motherhood in Online Communities: Digital Community Mothering and Migrant Maternal Imaginaries,” on diasporic mothers. She argues that, in the context of national and ethnic identities, language is capable of creating boundaries to entry and participation in certain spaces (Williams Veazey 118). Veazey’s notion of language as defining physical and psychological spaces is meaningful. For example, “Mother Tells Me Stories” is written in English and reads as if the speaker is addressing the reader, but the italicized ‘bimba’ is spoken by the mother and addressed to the speaker, creating a unique psychological space that the mother dedicates to her daughter and that excludes the reader. The mothers in Thammavongsa’s “You Are So Embarrassing” and “Edge of the World” speak their home language to their daughters as well, but unlike Patriarca’s use of Italian language to mend wounds in mother-daughter relationships, Lao is ultimately rejected by or stripped from the daughter. Names given in Lao, their home language, versus names anglicized for convenience or conformity to colonial Canadian culture is a significant thematic concern for characters across How to Pronounce Knife. The mother and daughter in “You Are So Embarrassing” are not exempt from grappling with the implications of name, language, and identity: [The mother] stopped the first student she saw. ‘I’m looking for Chantakad?’ The student said, ‘Oh, you mean Celine?’ …

15


‘And will you stop calling me that name!’ her daughter went on. ‘Everyone calls me Celine now.’ Her seat belt clicked in the back seat. ‘Celine? How do you get Celine out of Chantakad?’ ‘That’s who I am now. I’m Celine.’ (Thammavongsa 123–134) In this passage, the Lao name ‘Chantakad’ embodies attachment to their Lao heritage, cultural identity, and home language, and the French-Canadian name ‘Celine’ represents conformation to colonial Canada. The daughter insists ‘I’m Celine’ instead of ‘my name is Celine,’ revealing that her name is not merely an identifier but a representation of all that she identifies with—an embrace of her new life in colonial Canada and a rejection of her Lao heritage. The text further suggests that Chantakad’s decision to rename herself ‘Celine’ was made independent of her mother, and unlike the subtler difference between ‘Jai’ and ‘Jay’ in “The School Bus Driver,” ‘Chantakad’ and ‘Celine’ share no similarities but the first letter; even then, the ch and s sounds the names start with set them quite distinctly apart. This gestures toward the boundary Chantakad imposes between the space associated with her English name—her school, where “everyone calls [her] Celine” (124)—and the space associated with her Lao name, which, in the text, is her mother’s car. Chantakad physically “usher[s] her [mother] out the door” of the school upon seeing her (124), which shows that she strongly desires a marked separation or mutual exclusivity between the two spaces; in the shared physical space of the car, Chantakad sits in the backseat instead of the passenger seat. This physical distance between mother and daughter points to the drifting apart of the psychological spaces they each occupy, one defined by the attachment to the Lao language and one defined by the rejection of it. Yet another thematic concern Patriarca and Thammavongsa share is storytelling between generations of women. Neal Mcleod’s article “Coming Home Through Stories,” initially published in the International Journal of Canadian Studies, eloquently deciphers the significance of storytelling to forging relationships amidst diaspora: To tell a story is to link, in the moments of telling, the past to the present, and the present to the past … An ideological home is a layering of generations of stories, and the culmination of storyteller after storyteller, in a long chain of transmission. To be home, in an ideological sense, means to dwell in the landscape of the familiar, collective memories, as opposed to being in exile … An ideological home needs to have a spatial, temporal home as well. (McLeod 170–172) Thus, between the storyteller and the listener, the mother and the daughter, stories create a psychological space in which they may share an ideological and temporal constant that bridges their generational aperture amidst an ever-shifting diaspora. In Patriarca’s “Mother Tells Me Stories,” the mother tells stories of the speaker’s “white cotton dresses … long black curls” (35), reconstructing memories for her daughter to create a shared psychological space

16


and, as McLeod proposes, an ideological home of the speaker’s childhood in Italy. In an attempt to “link the past to the present” (McLeod 170), the mother’s “fingers mak[e] ringlets in [her daughter’s] hair,” recreating the speaker’s childhood ‘curls’ (Patriarca 35). In this way, the mother seeks to halt her daughter’s ideological displacement from their Italian heritage and create a space in which she and her daughter may connect emotionally with each other through this shared memory. According to Patriarca, this autobiographical poem illustrates a moment she had shared with her elderly grandmother, who would tell stories of herself as a young woman and “take [her] to [her] century” (Patriarca; 36). Therefore, storytelling creates a psychological space in which the speaker’s youth in contemporary Canada and the grandmother’s youth in twentieth-century Italy coexist, transcending temporal and spatial dimensions and connecting the diasporic individual—the speaker—to her homeland and home culture. In contrast, Thammavongsa’s mothers and daughters do not connect through storytelling in quite the same way. For example, the only story Chantakad’s mother tells her is of the pains of childbirth and motherhood: You don’t know what it’s like to give birth, to have your body bust open like that. And then to have to clean and bathe and feed that life—just a bunch of cries and burps and shit to attend to. And I did it on my own! You just don’t know! … No one really wants to be a mother. But you can’t know this for sure until you are one. (Thammavongsa 125) The harshest difference between this story and those told in Patriarca’s texts is the glaring absence of common ground between the storyteller and the listener. Chantakad has never given birth or mothered, but her mother recounts her experiences with childbirth and motherhood from her own perspective, reducing Chantakad to near inanimacy by calling her ‘that life’ and describing her as ‘just a bunch of cries and burps and shit.’ The absence of common ground is driven home by the mother’s repetition of the phrase ‘you don’t know,’ which blatantly excludes Chantakad from the psychological space she creates with the story and mars their relationship. The storytelling in “Edge of the World” is gentler and more nuanced, though bittersweet. The speaker and her mother watch soap operas together at first, establishing a shared space; when the speaker begins attending school, her mother “watched the soaps alone and told [her] about them when [she] came home [from school]” (99). This shows the speaker leaving their shared space and her mother seeking to continue connecting with her by recounting the soap operas as a form of storytelling, but “[a]fter a while, [she] didn’t want to hear about them anymore” (99): I started reading books, and my mother would come sit with me and have me read them to her. She would ask questions about the drawings inside … At night, she would

17


bring a book to my bed and insist I read it to her. There were not too many words inside. Sometimes she’d fall asleep right away, but when she didn’t, I would make up stories for her. (99–100) This passage foregrounds the triviality of the words themselves and suggests that the significance of storytelling between generations of women lies in the sense of connection it fosters. When the speaker learns to read in English and rejects partaking in the shared psychological space defined by soap operas, her mother brings books to her and asks to join her in a new space. However, unlike the stories told by Patriarca’s mothers and daughters, the children’s picture books and made-up stories are not founded on shared experience or collective memory. The speaker’s schooling eventually reveals that the psychological spaces she and her mother chiefly occupy no longer overlap: “We were different people, and we understood that then” (102). This results in McLeod’s notion of ideological exile, in which the stories told do not belong to a “spatial, temporal home,” and neither the mother nor the daughter are ideologically home (McLeod 172). Ultimately, the diasporic generations of women in Patriarca’s Italian Women and Other Tragedies and Thammavongsa’s How to Pronounce Knife embody essential aspects of feminine diasporic identity. Defined by mother-daughter relationships, “Mother Tells Me Stories,” “For Grandma in Bed, Waiting,” “Edge of the World,” and “You Are So Embarrassing” explore the way mothers and daughters inform each other’s diasporic experiences through the domestic space, their mother tongue, and storytelling, albeit to different ends. Patriarca’s women ultimately reconcile, and Thammavongsa’s women come apart.

18


Works Cited Klein, Denise et al. “Age of language learning shapes brain structure: a cortical thickness study of bilingual and monolingual individuals.” Brain and Language, vol. 131, 2014, pp. 20–24. Macfarlane, Heather. “Postwar Diasporas.” ENGL466 Topics in Modern/Contemporary Canadian Literature I: Diaspora Writing in Toronto, October 2021, Queen’s University, Kingston Hall. Seminar. Macfarlane, Heather. “Souvankham Thammavongsa.” ENGL466 Topics in Modern/Contemporary Canadian Literature I: Diaspora Writing in Toronto, November 2021, Queen’s University, Kingston Hall. Seminar. McLeod, Neal. “Coming Home Through Stories.” Introduction to Indigenous Literary Criticism in Canada, ed. Heather Macfarlane and Armand Garnet Ruffo, pp. 169–186 Broadview Press, 2015. Patriarca, Gianna. Italian Women and Other Tragedies. Guernica Editions, 1994. Patriarca, Gianna. Personal interview. 14 October 2021. Thammavongsa, Souvankham. How to Pronounce Knife. Little, Brown and Company, 2020. Williams Veazey, Leah. Navigating the Intersections of Migration and Motherhood in Online Communities: Digital Community Mothering and Migrant Maternal Imaginaries. Routledge, 2021.

19


20


Written by Larissa Zhong Illustrated by Shelby Talbot

Remember running from the top of the hill telling stories about skeletons in the forest, Years later you buried yours there and I never knew All I had was a pencil sharpener shaped like a house and a spelling bee trophy that didn’t belong to me What did I do to deserve you and our frozen yogurt afternoons I don't remember if I said goodbye when I left you in the ruins of our childhood, behind our old school and forgot to look back I’m sorry I lost your number somewhere in this mess Has the henna faded from your hands Have the gold bangles rusted on your wrists It's thirteen years later and you still haunt me like vines on broken bricks

21


Written by Madeleine Vigneron Illustrated by Audra Crago

22


Telemachus of Ithaca has been fatherless for twenty years. For twenty years, he’s been twiddling his thumbs, waiting for his king and father to return from a war that will capture people’s hearts and minds for millennia. Telemachus hasn’t been doing anything that exciting; learning his alpha-beta-gammas, walking his dog, arguing with his mom. Typical young boy behaviour. Telemachus is not the only fatherless boy in Ithaca. When Odysseus left to go to war, he took the men of Ithaca with him, and now their sons are old enough to eye his palace and his wife. Telemachus does not want one of his childhood playmates to marry his mom, thank you very much, but they didn’t pay his protests any heed; they simply walked into his house and parked themselves at his tables. The sheer masses of young men overrunning Telemachus’ house don’t seem to realize that there’s only one queen to wed. Maybe they’re planning on some sort of scheduled sharing scheme, or just to deal with that problem later; Telemachus doesn’t know and he has no desire to discuss it. He knows he should drive the interlopers from his house like cattle; he knows that’s what his father would do, strong king that he was. Telemachus has his father’s eyes and his father’s curls, but he doesn’t have his father’s fortitude, so the best thing he can do is go searching for Odysseus. All he finds are war stories from people for whom the war was a very long time ago. All he finds is that everyone else sailed home years ago, and none of them have a clue what happened to Odysseus. Maybe Odysseus is dead. Surely no one is that bad with directions. I mean, Telemachus has had enough time to grow a beard. The beginnings of a beard. Who’s to say at what point stubble becomes a beard anyway? But that’s not the point; the point is that his dad might not be coming back to fend off all the weirdos who are trying to marry his mom, and Telemachus is seriously not into the idea of having a stepdad his own age. As Ithaca appears on the horizon, Telemachus thinks that maybe this is his time to shine. He’ll stand up for himself and for his family and assert the authority that he’s been wielding more like a limp flower stalk than a sword. Telemachus’ royal boat docks on the shore of the land that he rules by right, and he marches home with a conviction that will not be swayed by anything the gods can throw at him. And what do the gods throw at him? Odysseus. Odysseus has finally washed up on the shore of the land he’s been missing from for so long. He returns with Athena hovering over his shoulder: the goddess of wisdom, and the goddess of war, and also the goddess of how not to get in your dad’s way. Prophecy claimed that the king of the gods would have a son who would usurp him; instead, he had Athena, an asset rather than a danger to the throne, by virtue of her gender and her consistent willingness to stand next to him and look threatening. She’s not stingy with that talent, either; she’s just

23


as threatening at Odysseus’s shoulder. And so Telemachus quietly crumples his ten-step plan for greatness and falls into line. Telemachus isn’t sure that his father knows this is Ithaca and not Troy. He isn’t completely sure he himself won’t be slain in the war to come, and there will be a war. Best thing to do is stay by his side and maybe subtly ask for beard advice because they literally have the same genes, so whatever his dad’s doing should work perfectly for him, too, right? Odysseus left home a father, but he returns a conqueror. This particular conquest will have to be accomplished without an army. He lost all his men on the way back from Troy; blown away by angry winds or eaten by angrier Cyclopes or killed by their own stupidity because they’d rather die trying to get home than keep sailing to shores that aren’t Ithaca’s. Well, Odysseus was always the cleverest of the bunch, and that’s why he’s standing on the shore, and the rest of them were torn to shreds and strewn across the Mediterranean. He’ll have to explain to their wives why their houses will stay empty, why he took the entire adult male population of Ithaca away with him, and why he returns, not even remembering most of their names. That’s okay, though; they died for king and country, and now he can feel the rocks of Ithaca under his feet for them. His men’s houses are empty because their wives are irrelevant to the story he’s finally going to draw to a close, and because their sons are in Odysseus’s house trying to woo his wife. Odysseus has slept with his fair share of beautiful women over the past twenty years it’s been a rough couple of decades, okay - but if Penelope desecrated their marriage bed he might shore up the walls with her blood too. After everything he’s been through, what’s one more body? But, no, she’s who he’s coming home to. Her and their bed and their son, who’s had twenty years trying to grow up but can’t even properly grow his father’s beard. Odysseus steps onto the porch and reaches out to pet the dog he hasn’t seen in twenty years. The crotchety old dog raises its greying muzzle, sees its master, and promptly kicks the bucket—instant death. Muzzle hitting the porch. Rigour mortis starts to set in. But Odysseus isn’t a seer, so he doesn’t let such omens faze him. He just steps over the dog and opens his front door. Inside, his wife’s suitors are eating dinner. The men in his house, the boys in his house – look up when he enters, chicken legs mid-way to their mouths, faces smeared with grease. They look so ridiculous – so young and vulnerable – that for a brief second, Odysseus considers not killing them all. But then he registers that that is his food, being served by his servants, and the end of the story congeals in blood once more. Maybe it would be weird to kill so many boys his own son’s age, but he hasn’t been around for a while and honestly has shelved all the father-son feelings for later when his house no longer has a vermin problem. Kid needs to shave, though. Before long Odysseus is the last one standing, no need for an army. Telemachus is in the corner throwing up. Odysseus wipes the blood from his blade and waits to feel the warm, blanket of home envelop him, but all he feels is the sweat and blood drying slowly on his skin. He experimentally stabs the corpse closest to him again. No dice. The body kind of looks like 24


his old buddy Elpenor, but Elpenor died years ago and - oh. Odysseus eyes his own son, still dry heaving in the corner. This isn’t the home he thought he would come back to. All the furniture has been moved around, and there are bodies covering the nice hardwood he put in before he left. He goes looking for his wife, and instead, he finds his bedroom. The bed he built around an olive tree, so it could never be moved. Cute. Meant more before he’d razed forests. Out the window, a nice view of the garden. Maybe he’ll take up gardening; he knows it involves sharp metal tools, and he’s really got a knack for handling those. Maybe he’ll find his wife, and she won’t know the person he is anymore. Maybe he’ll finally be held by someone who knows something about him that isn’t a lie from his own mouth. Maybe he’ll quietly forget to mention all the women from the past twenty years, and they can be a family again. Pop out another baby, so that he can father someone for real. Maybe he should just kill himself here in the bed so that at least the story will end on his terms. The only garden he’ll ever plant is the one downstairs, the rapidly cooling compost of organic matter sprouting nothing but the bronze weaponry still piercing the flowerbed of corpses. He doesn’t know how to cultivate something living. He doesn’t know how to live off-book. He doesn’t know how to be a husband or a father, and the house is covered in too much blood to ever wash off. He’s covered in too much blood to ever wash off. If that were a metaphor, it would be unbearably trite, but he is still quite literally soaked from head to toe in the guts of an entire generation, bar his wimp of a son. Odysseus has been gone for too long to call himself the king of Ithaca anymore, and anyways there’s no one left in Ithaca to be the king of other than a bunch of women and probably some senior citizens, and he hates dealing with all the paperwork that senior citizens bring to a city, but all of his administrators were killed by Trojan arrows fifteen years ago. So, he put them on the front lines because he was tired of signing things. Now he wishes he could be tired of killing, but if he stops waving his sword around, he probably won’t ever move again. At some point, Odysseus ended up horizontal in the bed, which reminds him of how he used to put Telemachus to sleep when Telemachus was a tiny baby instead of a grown man dry heaving over all his dead classmates. Odysseus waits for Penelope to come and hold him, and he tries to decide what he’ll plant in the garden. Maybe more olive trees. Not a lot grows in Greece, but the olive tree in his bed has been here for twenty years longer than he has. Odysseus waits for Penelope to come and yell at him for getting blood all over their sheets. Odysseus waits for Penelope to come and tell him that she’s leaving him. Odysseus waits for the women of Ithaca to come and take revenge for all the husbands and sons he killed and all the senior citizens he hasn’t been around to sign documents about. Odysseus falls asleep, and he dreams of the ocean rocking the boards under his feet and his men talking and laughing beside him and Ithaca being a destination that he’d do or kill anything to get back to. 25


Written by Audra Crago Illustrated by Shelby Talbot

26


It’s not so much the full bottles

It’s not so much that you yelled at the

As it is the empty glass.

speeding car

A broken promise

As it is that you held me in front of it with

Stale and sticky on the crooked coffee table.

you.

I’ll never drink whiskey again.

With headlights glaring and The horn blaring,

It’s not so much the noxious assault in the

One fist gripped my arm and the other met

doorway

the hood

As it is the broken flag on the mailbox.

People screamed from the beach, but it was

Even when empty,

just a ripple in the water.

I pushed it up To remind him as much as myself.

It’s not so much that you slapped my cousin

There’s still someone in there.

As it is that you fell into the Christmas tree. He may have been old enough to know

It’s not so much his photograph hanging in

better,

the bar

But so were you.

As it is the abandoned gelato shop on the

And you have the nerve to be angry when I

corner of Broadway and Dawson.

swear at the dinner table.

I think I hold my breath now Every time I pass it.

It’s not so much the dead squirrel on the

Our after-school tradition left to rot with the

basement floor

wooden staircase.

As it is that you left it there. A limp mound of fur

It’s not so much the overgrown pond

Does not look unlike a stuffed animal,

As it is the sickly yellow grass.

And children aren’t supposed to be that

When we threw the ball too far,

perceptive.

The neighbour’s dog wasn’t as friendly as

How many times did we step on it before we

we.

felt bone?

These days, I’d take the dog over you. It’s not so much that I dread the funeral, As it is that I won’t know what to say in the eulogy.

27


28


“DADDY LESSONS” & DADDY ISSUES Verse and Gendered Trauma in Beyoncé’s Lemonade Written by Ashanthi Francis Illustrated by Lauren Bale The release of Beyoncé Knowles’s sixth studio album, Lemonade, signified a turning point in the conception of Black female identity within popular music. Described as a “shot heard around the world” by scholar Zeffie Gaines, the multimedia experience of Lemonade serves as an ode to Black femininity. Through a superimposition of lyrics, instrumentals, film, and poetry, Knowles demonstrates a desire to share aspects of her life previously incompatible with her cultural status as an uber-private celebrity: her anger, her grief, her husband’s infidelity, and more urgently, her Blackness. The most distinctive work on the album is “Daddy Lessons”, a five-minute flirtation with the country genre filled with luscious horns and ‘yee-haw’s, framing the piece as an obvious nod to Knowles’s Houston roots. At first glance, the song is a twangy beat alongside musings of the wisdom imparted to little girls by their fathers. However, following a close reading of the song’s lyrics, paired with accompanying visual elements, and framed by Somali-British writer Warsan Shire’s imagistic poetic epitaph “Accountability”, Lemonade’s sole country ballad transforms into something more complex: an exploration of Black girlhood as the product of one’s upbringing. Through an emphasis on the crucial male figures in young Black girls’ lives—fathers and husbands— Knowles uses experience as a point of exposition for discussions of intergenerational influences on expressions of Black femininity. Knowles’s use of verse, lyric, and visual imagery in “Daddy Lessons” to dramatize recurring themes in both her familial and romantic histories posits the significance of fatherhood in fortifying or disrupting cycles of gendered trauma for Black girls. Shire’s poem “Accountability” is a poetic epitaph to “Daddy Lessons” which strategically frames Knowles’s musical narrative by introducing themes of troubled family dynamics and intergenerational transmission. The opening lines of “Accountability,” written by Shire and spoken by Knowles, read: “You find the Black tube inside her beauty case / where she keeps your father’s old / prison letters” (Shire lines 1-3). In these initial lines, Shire’s speaker addresses a child, presumably a young girl, while alluding to her father’s incarceration, suggesting a potentially troubled father-daughter relationship. As a framing

29


device, this verse centers the domestic space as the focal point of the “Daddy Lessons” narrative and subsequently introduces parenting as a key theme. Shire’s speaker almost immediately draws parallels between the child they are addressing and the child’s mother: “You look nothing like your mother. You look everything like your mother” (5-6). Although the child looks “nothing” like her mother, the speaker implies that she will nevertheless be impacted by the inferred troubled relationship of her parents and is therefore “everything” like her. In a similar manner, the speaker instructs the child to wear her mother’s lipstick “like she wears / disappointment on her face” (11-12). The speaker encourages the young girl to mimic her mother physically and emotionally by wearing the latter’s lipstick and internalizing her “disappointment.” As well, it is important to consider the comparison the speaker draws between lipstick and disappointment in these lines.

In comparing

lipstick, a commonly accepted symbol of womanhood and femininity, to disappointment, the speaker suggests disappointment is a staple in coming-of-age for young Black girls. These instructions and the speaker’s comparison are literal manifestations of the earlier musings on intergenerational trauma and frame the “Daddy Lessons” narrative as a piece of artwork exploring the influences of parenting and parental conflict on Black girlhood. However, the poem’s next lines specify the goal of “Daddy Lessons”, as they establish male influence as the root of cyclical trauma for Black girls. The speaker now addresses their mother, stating: Mother dearest, let me inherit the earth Teach me how to make him beg Let me make up for the years he made you wait Did he bend your reflection? Did he make you forget your own name? Did he convince you he was a god? Did you get on your knees daily? Do his eyes close like doors? Are you a slave to the back of his head? (17-23) In these lines, the speaker seeks to avenge her mother for the harm she suffered by an unnamed “he”. Phrases like “a slave to the back of his head” and “get on your knees daily” depict a relationship fraught with physical and emotional abuse. The speaker’s use of repetitive questioning and emphasis on the word “he” places male influence at the center of the “Daddy Lessons” narrative. The speaker’s insistence on questioning their mother about an unnamed, abusive “he”, contrasted with earlier comments on inherited “disappointment” addressed to a child, suggests negative male influence to be a crucial factor in cycles of intergenerational trauma for Black girls.

30


The final line of Shire’s poem is arguably the most significant to “Daddy Lessons,” as it acts as a thesis for the rest of Knowles’s musical and visual elements. The speaker asks directly: “Am I talking about your husband or your father?” (24). The generic “he” in earlier lines is tethered to the domestic space. By drawing parallels between fathers and husbands, the speaker establishes that the abuse is intergenerational. This comparison also suggests the early stages at which these patterns can begin. For example, many Black girls in troubled family dynamics become exposed to intergenerational trauma in their early years, as the abuse they witness their mothers face at the hands of their fathers begins to be turned upon them ( Johnson 890). In her essay “Black Girlhood Interrupted,” Dr. Tressie McMillan Cottom suggests this transfer of abuse to be far from coincidental, as “if one is ‘ready’ for what a man wants from her, then by merely existing she has consented to his treatment of her. Puberty becomes permission” (Cottom 129). Cottom’s claims complement Shire’s blurred distinction between father and husband, as her argument reinforces the notion that Black girls have little agency in their participation of cycles of trauma. To flawed male figures, a girl or woman’s existence is “permission” to abuse them. Ultimately, Shire’s poem lays a foundation for Knowles’s “Daddy Lessons” narrative by suggesting paternal influence to be a deciding factor in the persistence of Black girls’ cyclical trauma. The musical aspect of “Daddy Lessons” supports Shire’s thesis and expands on it, using lyrical dramatizations to convey fathers as imperative to both shaping Black girls’ ideas of femininity and reinforcing cyclical trauma. Knowles’s speaker begins by introducing her “Daddy” figure through strategic details, such as juxtaposing her status as “daddy’s little girl” with the subtle suggestion of substance abuse in the line, “Daddy liked his whisky with his tea” (Knowles lines 1, 4). By emphasizing her closeness to her father and her father’s plausibly unhealthy relationship with alcohol, the speaker sets up a potentially flawed paternal dynamic— one with the capacity to illustrate the impacts of fatherhood on gendered expressions and trauma for Black girls. Knowles’s speaker discusses her Daddy’s “lessons,” which identify the skewed expressions of Black femininity resulting from a flawed paternal dynamic, especially in relation to strength and emotional suppression. According to the speaker, Daddy “made a soldier out of her” because a “tough girl” is what she “had to be” (lines 2, 7). Through an emphasis on the strength which she “had” to take on at a young age, the speaker draws connections between her Daddy’s expectations and her current identity as a “soldier”: someone who must remain stoic in the face of unbearable hardship. These ideas are not unique to Knowles’s lyrics. In fact, research by Maria S. Johnson concludes that “discourses of strength and respectability dominate the socialization process of Black women and girls.” Johnson’s research on Black girlhood posits that regardless of the quality of fatherhood, ideologies of strength dominate the socialization of Black girls in two ways: “one that positions fathers as supporting

31


daughters’ strength-based efforts and another that positions fathers as negatively propelling those efforts” ( Johnson 889). Johnson’s findings provide cultural context to Knowles’s speaker’s claims about “Daddy,” suggesting the expectations and ideals enforced on Black girls by their fathers to significantly influence their understanding of socialization, and thus the ways in which their femininity manifests. As well, later in the lyrics, the speaker’s reverence towards her father, despite her doubts, is emphasized through illustrations of Daddy’s advice regarding fighting. This relationship between Daddy’s crushing expectations and the speaker’s “adultification” is demonstrated in lines such as: “Daddy made me fight / It wasn’t always right” and “With his gun, with his head held high / He told me not to cry / Oh, my daddy said shoot” (Knowles lines 11-12, 21-23). Although the speaker recognizes her father’s behaviour “wasn’t always right,” her ideas of what Black femininity looks like are significantly impacted by her Daddy’s commands. For example, Daddy telling the speaker “not to cry” encourages a view of Black femininity defined by suffering in silence, regardless of the consequences. Additionally, Daddy’s agency in these sentences, seen through “his gun,” “his head,” him telling the speaker “not to cry,” and him making her “fight,” further solidify the notion that it is primarily the active role of fathering in the lives of Black girls which contributes to the development of expressions of Black femininity such as the speaker’s suppression of emotions under the guise of ‘strength’. According to a Georgetown Law study titled Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood, these flawed expectations reinforce “dominant discourses that frame Black girls as less feminine than all other girls” and ultimately result in “disproportionate exclusionary and disciplinary outcomes” later in life (6). This knowledge complicates Knowles’s speaker’s seemingly amiable discussions of her father’s transmission of ideals. Instead of harmless advice, the speaker’s discussions of her father’s expectations suggest the urgent and longterm consequences of paternal-led socialization on the well-being of Black girls later in life. The situational irony present in the advice which Daddy gives the speaker regarding other men suggests a crucial link between ‘fatherly’ expectations and cyclical trauma for Black girls. The speaker recalls her Daddy saying, “When trouble comes to town / And men like me come around. . .shoot” (Knowles lines 19-20). In these lines, Daddy acknowledges his negative domestic qualities and warns his daughter, the speaker, to stay away from men like him. However, only moments after this chorus repeats for the second time, the speaker states: “My daddy warned me about men like you / He said baby girl he’s playing you / He’s playing you” (39-40). Despite her Daddy’s self-aware warning to avoid men like him, and her recognition that her father “wasn’t always right”, the speaker now addresses a new man who likely shares many of the same unhealthy qualities as her father. These lines parallel Shire’s speaker’s earlier remark blurring the lines between father and husband, as the text reveals a traumatic pattern in the speaker’s male relationships.

32


By describing herself to be in a harmful relationship that mimics the one she had with her father and is likely similar to the one her mother had with her father, the speaker establishes a connection between her father’s teachings of stoicism and her repetition of the traumatic relationship experiences her parents hoped she would avoid. bell hooks comments generally on the influence of parental relationships on young Black girls in “Justice: Childhood Love Lessons,” stating, “Whether our homes are happy or troubled, our families functional or dysfunctional, it’s the original school of love” (bell hooks 17). While bell hooks’s claim ties to the broader themes of Knowles’s work, I argue that “Daddy Lessons” presents a vision of fatherly influence beyond love lessons. Instead, it is the very ways Black girls are taught by their fathers to express their femininity that subconsciously influence their relationship trajectories. This notion is exemplified in Johnson’s study: “some fathers’ presence provides continuous opportunities to reinforce damaging messages that subvert daughters’ sense of self” resulting in low standards for dating or seeking a “substitute father figure” (900). These statistics ground Knowles’s speaker’s insistence that despite her father’s warnings, his influential presence in her formative years has led her to pursue similarly troubled men. Knowles’s lyrics reinforce the claim that, regardless of ‘lessons,’ harmful expressions of Black femininity developed through fatherly influence inevitably perpetuate cycles of gendered trauma for Black girls. The visual aspects of “Daddy Lessons” complement both Shire’s and Knowles’s lyrics by juxtaposing footage to portray fatherhood as a determining factor in reinforcing or ending cycles of intergenerational trauma for Black girls. There are two visions of fatherhood portrayed within the short film: present and absent. Although these categories are the oversimplified extremes of a complex domestic dynamic, the contrast between these positive and negative dramatizations suggests the crucial nature of positive fathering to fostering healthy expressions of femininity in young Black girls. The most personal use of juxtaposition within the “Daddy Lessons” film is seen through footage from Knowles’s home videos that contrast generations to suggest the persistence of generational male influence on Black girls and women. First, a young Knowles, likely seven or eight years old, is shown on screen with her father. The two are seated on a couch and engaging in conversation about Knowles’s grandparents. This shot is contrasted immediately thereafter with footage of Knowles’s father with her daughter, his granddaughter. This vision of Knowles’s daughter forming a relationship with her grandfather, paired with Knowles’s speaker’s and Shire’s discussions of intergenerational trauma, suggests that all Black girls, Knowles and her daughter included, are vulnerable to the influence of male figures in their formative years. Conversely, Knowles’s juxtaposition suggests that Black girls can develop skewed ideas of feminine expression through these male figures and therefore can be subject to cycles of gendered trauma. In a personal essay for Vogue Magazine, Knowles commented on this use

33


of imagery stating, “I come from a lineage of broken male-female relationships, abuse of power, and mistrust. Only when I saw that clearly was I able to resolve those conflicts in my own relationship” (“Ancestry”). These words paired with images of Knowles’s father and daughter identify the optimistic consequence of the work’s thesis. While Shire’s poetry and Knowles’s lyrics and visual imagery suggest the potential of fatherhood in perpetuating cycles of trauma for Black girls, Knowles’s daughter symbolizes an alternate hopeful outcome: a vision of Black girlhood with positive male intervention. Knowles’s strategic selections of lyrics and film in the “Daddy Lessons” narrative seek to identify a pattern within the lives of Black girls: one of intergenerational trauma with fatherhood as its imperative factor. Musical lyrics, poetic verse, and home video footage work together to slowly develop this message, culminating in what is aptly described by Zeffie Gaines as “singing a Black girl’s song” (99). Warsan Shire’s epitaph “Accountability” primes Knowles’s work as her speaker uses shifts in perspective and emphasizes generational parallels, laying the foundation for discussions of trauma as both maternally inherited and paternally inflicted. Drawing on these themes, Knowles’s lyrics are the work’s thesis. Her speaker draws on memory, using the framework of ‘lessons’ and situational irony to suggest her Daddy’s influence to be the causal link in both her troubled demonstrations of Black femininity and the subsequent poor quality of men she associates herself with in the future. These revelations solidify fatherhood as a key authority in shaping Black girls’ expectations for themselves and subsequently enabling or preventing them from participating in cycles of intergenerational domestic trauma. Lastly, the visual film of “Daddy Lessons’’ reinforces Knowles’s thesis of fatherly influence through establishing visual parallels which echo the work’s narrative elements. The film explores polarizing differences in paternal dynamics: absent versus active and past versus present, using these contrasts to mimic Knowles’s and Shire’s speakers’ discussions of the drastic consequences of negative paternal influence. Raw footage of her childhood interactions with her father juxtaposed with footage of her daughter interacting with him conclude the narrative by emphasizing the persistence of paternally inflicted intergenerational trauma. These scenes suggest even Knowles’s family, despite their status, is vulnerable to these domestic cycles of trauma. While this conclusion seems less than optimistic, “Daddy Lessons” signifies a call to action in Lemonade, or more specifically a desire to ensure that Black girls are met with the positive paternal interventions necessary to break these cycles of trauma. Knowles’s artistic creation does not glorify this trauma or portray the situation for Black girls as hopeless. Instead, “Daddy Lessons” challenges a shift in the dominant narrative: one which moves away from criticizing Black girls and instead places the onus on fathers and their responsibility to challenge harmful expectations of Black femininity in their daughters’ formative years.

34


Works Cited bell hooks. “Justice: Childhood Love Lessons.” all about love: new visions, HarperCollins, 2000. Cottom, Tressie McMillan. “Black Girlhood, Interrupted.” Thick and Other Essays, New Press, 2019. Epstein, Rebecca, et al. “Girlhood Interrupted: The Erasure of Black Girls’ Childhood.” Georgetown Law Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2017. Gaines, Zeffie. “A Black Girl’s Song: Misogynoir, Love, and Beyoncé’s Lemonade.” Taboo: The Journal of Culture and Education, vol. 16, no. 2, 2017. Johnson, Maria S. “Strength and Respectability: Black Women’s Negotiation of Racialized Gender Ideals and the Role of Daughter–Father Relationships.” Gender & Society, vol. 27, no. 6, Dec. 2013, pp. 889–912, doi:10.1177/0891243213494263. Knowles, Beyoncé. “Ancestry.” Vogue Magazine, 2018. Shire, Warsan. “Accountability.” Lemonade, 2016.

35


GHOST Written by Sapphyre Smith

dreams spin, spinning cold-sick-tight-cyclone, intestinal elastics wind– –snap wind– –snap wind– –snap –spin– –my– –spine– –like– –a– –fire– –pole– jump guts heave hurl. no thank you sir i want off this ride he’s there? there. gone now. alone – lonely – loan, huh, sounds like loan, borrowed emptiness – focus, thoughts settle stomach settle – guess i owe somebody something in the afterlife, guess i’m not my own to lose, guess i’m living on borrowed time and borrowed home, everything borrowed, not mine not his not ours no

36


“ours” anymore; nothing left me nothing left-me-pain-in-my-chest empty bed empty everything’s gone – footsteps. footsteps? no – no footsteps, can’t be footsteps i live alone alone-since-he-left– foot step

foot /

foot

step

/

foot

step

step

foot /

step –

door opens. improbable; big flashy computer message

<ERROR>

does not compute

nonsensical ones and zeroes don’t make twos; 01110111 01101000 01111001 00100000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01110100 01101000 01101001 01110011 00100000 01101000 01100001 01110000 01110000 01100101 01101110 01101001 01101110 01100111 00100000 01110100 01101111 00100000 01101101 01100101 numbers live alone too in code they don’t add together i don’t think; they don’t make twos; did not choose this

wow that rhymes with twos i –

door opens – face – she says her name she has a name

but

i think she’s dead she must be; only one lives here, one live-er in this house, ha liver, that’s an organ, i don’t remember where my liver is that’s not important small; tiny ghost child huddled top stair; top stair dangerous “you could fall and break your neck,” dad says – haven’t seen him in a long time – dad says, “that’s dangerous” | |“that’s dangerous,” says i – “come down –”

37


{{she}}

{{{{{games}}}}}}}}}}}}

{{}}

{{{{{games, play games,}}}}{{{}}}}}}}} {/sweet\}

{{{}}

{games with a dead girl that’s not weird at all; sticky/}}}}}}}\fingers\}}}}}}}}}/cheeks} {}}}{{}}}}}{{{{{{{{{}}}}{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}\cherry/}}}}}}} {{c l o u d , hair’s a curly cloud,{{{{{{}}}}}}}spirals slip from scalp and coil;/{{{{}}}}{{{}} /

{{{{}}}} /{{}}

/ {{{hair rains{{{}}}}

/ /{}} / /

/

into

/ /

/

{{} / into/

/

/ / / / / / /

into / /

/ / / / eyes eyes blink eyes blink eyes blink blink blink see me – she sees me – that’s too alive and she’s not – stop – she’s not alive if she was i’d be – stop – just play just play; tic tac toe two truths and a lie truth or dare why do so many of these want the truth it’s not – it’s not – don’t go there – rockpaperscissorsrockpaperscissorsrockpaperscissorsshoot; no that’s not right – that’s not how you play you’re doing it wrong – not right you have to go on shoot, on shoot you play – shoot i– on shoot on shots you die i die i did i did one letter one letter one letter just e to d just change e to d that’s it present-past dying-dead gone, he’s gone –

38


he shot me he did my chest he split my heart in four with bullets he made four hearts four hearts four holes two new bullet homes in my vertebrae i don’t know i don’t know where the others went – red-fire fear-choke blood-drown gasping, hiccup on the sticky juice drown in the gun barrel metallic lightning metal pierce pulsing-throbbing-beeping in skin a heart monitor a hospital a heartbeat a heartbreak those are all h words here’s another – hate she sees she’s scared run run run hahahahahahahhaahahahahah haha hhaha h – i couldn’t run i couldn’t he got me too quick doors slam books fly wind screams past sticky hiccups past wet gasps past whys and how could yous and i love yous shattering my teeth rotting the walls inside out pest there’s a pest there’s a thing in my house why can’t i have this house it was ours it is mine after what he did to me here

39


40


POETIC INTERIORITY

in Rose Macaulay’s “The Shadow”: Contrasting Civilian and Soldier Experiences in World War I Written by Mariel Matsuda Illustrated by Lauren Bale Rose Macaulay’s poem “The Shadow” explores the experience of civilian uncertainty, trauma, and helplessness during World War I aerial bombings, focalizing the interiority of civilians. Impressionist techniques of onomatopoeia and sparse diction elucidate trauma’s impact on civilians, marking their distress as inarticulable. The anticipatory dread of civilians awaiting an encroaching bomb is evoked through a narrowing geographical subject. To represent the grief and entombing destruction following a bombing, Macaulay utilizes internal rhyming structures which bury their resolution within the silencing surrounding of a line. Finally, the aerial raid as a “show” metaphor is an ironic understatement, highlighting both the devastating toll of the raid’s destruction and the helplessness of the civilians who can only observe – not resist raids. In the poem “The Shadow,” Rose Macaulay employs impressionistic poetic techniques to construct an evocative portrayal of civilian experiences of wartime death and destruction, examining how civilian experiences differ and converge with the experiences of soldiers. The speaker first challenges distinctions between the soldier and civilian experience by conveying a civilian community’s claustrophobic anticipation of encroaching bombs. Though civilians are not active combatants, aerial raids force civilians to contend with uncertainty and destruction, similar to soldiers resisting attacks in bomb-ravaged battlefields. The rhyme “Blaze loud and bright, as if the stars were crashing right into the town, / And tumbling streets and houses down...” establishes an ominous, threatening atmosphere (Macaulay 67). The poem’s images grow increasingly specific in scope, from the broader classification of the “town” to the more proximate designation of its constituent “houses and streets,” evoking the dread of a “closing-in,” following the bomb’s approaching path. The more personal term of “houses” also affirms the devastating personal toll for civilians, who lose their homes and livelihoods as their neighbourhoods are torn apart like battlegrounds. As the distinction between “town” and “houses and streets” resolves with the completion of the rhyme, the distinction between battlefront and homefront becomes increasingly ambiguous as aerial raids target residential areas. Through graphic descriptions of the scale of destruction and trauma of death brought to civilian towns by aerial raids, Macaulay introduces how civilians contend with certain elements of the horror of the battlefield.

41


As the aerial raid progresses toward active bombing, Macaulay utilizes impressionist techniques and sparse diction to immerse the reader in the sensory overwhelm of the aerial raid and focalize the civilians’ panic and trauma. The onomatopoeic “Crash!” evokes a vividly jarring sound image (Macaulay 68). The exclamation is abrupt and unexpected, mirroring the panic-inducing air raid. This sensory immersion draws the reader into the civilians’ somatic and psychic reality, which is fragmented by trauma. The poem’s fractured structure suggests that the severe trauma of an aerial raid disturbs the civilians’ psyche, resulting in an inability to organize stimuli. Consumed with a concern of immediate survival, civilians struggle to articulate the trauma of the raid through full sentences. Moreover, the short sentences and focus on the present exemplify the unrelenting anxiety of experiencing an unpredictable bomb raid. Using present-tense interjections such as “Crash!”, the speaker abandons any sense of hindsight which would offer a sense of ease or predictability in the situation. Instead, the reader must experience the event with the same immediacy and uncertainty as the civilian observer. Through impressionist techniques of onomatopoeia and sparse diction, the text establishes how the psychic trauma of the civilian experience compares to the traumatic experiences of soldiers. Following the violence and trauma of the bomb raid, Macaulay employs the silencing of internal rhyming structures to convey the aftermath of a bomb raid and illustrate how the cataclysmic scale of war complicates grief for soldiers and civilians alike. In one rhyme, a line illustrates the entombing devastation of bomb damage, describing, “Last time they messed our square, and left it a hot rubbish-heap, / With people sunk in it so deep…” (68). The poem’s enclosed rhyme parallels the rhyme’s content, with the embedded completion of the rhyme mirroring how the homes and bodies of civilians are buried beneath heaps of rubble in the aerial raid’s aftermath. Also, the internal placement of the rhyme’s completion reflects the silencing effect of a rubble-heap. Without the aural emphasis or pronounced visibility of a placement at the end of the line, the rhyming pattern becomes less obvious, even potentially obscured by adjacent words. The dampening of internal rhymes evokes how the tremendous scale of bombing damage obstructs civilian grief. The metaphors and understatement of the aerial attack as a “show” or “shadow” of the experiences of soldiers reflect the helplessness felt by civilians and examines the difference between soldier and civilian experiences. The final unitalicized stanza of the poem concludes with the ironic understatement, “Tonight’s show begins, it seems” (68). The detached understatement of the line creates irony, juxtaposed against visceral images of the death and destruction wrought by the aerial attack. Additionally, the non-committal phrasing of “it seems” hints at further uncertainty. Though the night’s attacks have begun, the civilians are unable to anticipate the severity, timing, or duration of future attacks and are powerless to resist them. Moreover, the metaphor of the bombing as a “show” reinforces the helplessness of the civilians: like spectators attending a play or film, they are powerless to do anything but observe.

42


Instances of understatement and anaphora emphasize how the experiences of civilians, though legitimately traumatic and devastating, differ from the experience of soldiers on the Western Front. The speaker intertwines graphic descriptions of the horror of the aerial raid with italicized stanzas stating that such horrors are “pale” or periphery “shadows” of the “Fear,” “Pain,” and “Hell” which the “world’s young men” must confront in war (68). The word “shadow” suggests that the terror that the civilians experience is a diminished facsimile of the acute horror, danger, and trauma that soldiers experience. In addition, adjectives like “pale” describe the civilian experience as diluted in intensity. However, “shadow” also suggests that the two traumas are related. The silhouette of a shadow cannot exist without the source object it reflects and emulates. Thus, though the intensity of the civilian and soldier experience may differ, they share common elements of death and destruction, common symptoms of trauma, and a common cause: the scourge of war. Finally, the central metaphor of the civilian experience as a “shadow” echoes the poem’s title of “The Shadow,” reinforcing the connection between civilian and soldier experiences. The speaker first uses the term “shadow” to describe the ominous arrival of the aerial bomber, affirming that though the civilian and soldier experiences are not identical, they are both rooted in the suffering of war. Rose Macaulay’s poem “The Shadow” utilizes poetic techniques to explore the subjective experience of civilians during an aerial raid while situating them within a broader understanding of the experience of soldiers. Describing how the bombers of the soldiers’ Western Front encroach upon the homefront in an aerial raid, subjecting civilians to some of the horrors of active combat, onomatopoeia and internal rhymes evoke the sensory pandemonium of bombing while sparse diction emphasizes the inarticulable severity of trauma. The metaphor of the aerial bombing as a “show” reflects the powerlessness and uncertainty civilians feel as spectators to devastation. Finally, in “The Shadow,” the poem’s central metaphor of the civilian experience as a “shadow” of the soldier’s experience reveals that though these experiences may differ in intensity and scale, they are similar in the destruction they wreak and their cause. Through the poem’s emphatic and vivid focus on civilian experiences, Macaulay refuses to diminish the trauma endured by civilians to bolster the atrocities soldiers face, suggesting that the civilian wartime experience is distinct but equally valid. The greater horrors witnessed by soldiers do not devalue the trauma of civilians; instead, they reiterate the indiscriminate and despicable magnitude of wartime loss. Work Cited Macaulay, Rose. “The Shadow.” Scars Upon My Heart: Women’s Poetry and Verse of the First World War, edited by Catherine Reilly, Virago, 2006, pp. 67-68.

43


NEVERENDING Written by Madeleine Vigneron Illustrated by Cristina Soares On her fifth life, Georgia stops trying to save the world. She gave it her all. She gave it four of her alls, actually; didn't even stop after the lucky third try left her smoldering on the metaphorical barbeque of a distracted amateur griller. Georgia spent four entire lifetimes trying to save the world, but the world simply does not want to be saved. So, she emerges bloody and wailing into the cold hospital air, she blinks her eyes open for the fifth very first time, she lives an unassuming life with an unassuming family, she touches The Orb at the age of sixteen and her four past lifetimes rush back into her body like a brass-knuckle punch to the synapses, and then she puts The Orb back in the dusty attic box where she found it, heads back downstairs, and decides get an early start on applying to university. She’s never done university before. Usually at this point she’s learning forbidden secrets from a bald disciple with a penchant for the dramatic. It’s honestly impressive how many secrets those guys have hidden. Four entire training montages and they never once double dipped. Maybe if they’d just given her the SparkNotes the first time around, she wouldn’t have had her ass beat so many times. But the disciples know best.

44


That’s what Modesty seems to think when he appears in her dorm room two years later, bald scalp shining and deep blue robes draped artfully over one shoulder as always. Georgia drops her backpack on the floor, kicks the door closed behind her, and says, “Seriously?” “I’m confused, Georgia,” Modesty says. His voice is a calm stream rumbling over the grey face of a mountain, but the girl across the hall has friends over and they are being as nightmarishly loud as always. It kind of ruins the effect. “What are you confused about?” Georgia asks. “What could possibly be confusing about this?” “You’ve never shirked your duties like this before. You’ve received the necessary knowledge to proceed with your destiny, and yet you haven’t sought us out. What are you doing?” “I’m seeking higher education,” Georgia says. Modesty waits patiently. “I’m seeking higher education that isn’t about the plane beyond ours. Or situated on a mountain. I’m seeking, like, medium-height education. Mid-tier but still pretty high up there.” Modesty waits some more. “Look,” Georgia says. She doesn’t have to explain herself to him, but actually, maybe she does. “I’m really tired of dying, okay? I did my best. Four whole times. It wasn’t good enough. If this was my destiny it would have stuck by now, but I still haven’t figured it out and I’m done trying. I just want to live a normal life before the Neverending comes and destroys everything. I’ve got a few good years left. I wanna use them for something that matters.” Modesty says, “This is what you think matters?” He surveys the room. Georgia’s schedule is tacked to a bulletin board, along with some pictures of her friends, and a to-do list. The list says things like Laundry on Tuesday and Outline history paper, not Learn to harness the boundless energy in the space between worlds and then fail to properly channel it once again when that space is cleft open, allowing the Neverending to successfully claw its way into our reality, take a giant bite out of the space currently occupied by Planet Earth, and also slap around a girl who is honestly trying her best before burning her to death with magic space fire. Georgia says, “Yeah. I do, actually. And I deserve it.” Modesty says, “Hm.” Then he says, “Hm,” again. Then he unsheathes a brilliant white sword and cleanly decapitates her. On her sixth life, Georgia runs away.

45


After The Orb lets her relive that wonderful last moment, she drops it back into the box where she found it and legs it downstairs. She packs a bag and writes a note and gets the hell out of there. The disciples don’t come after her immediately, likely because they assume that she’s seeking them out instead of playing destiny truant. After about six months, though, they figure out that she isn’t just struggling severely with directions to the sanctuary, and Modesty appears, shiny-headed and robe-swathed, in the small-town diner where Georgia managed to secure a waitressing job. When Georgia spies him waiting patiently at a table in her section, she bolts. Modesty beats her to the bus stop. Georgia holds her pepper spray aloft. “Stay back.” “Georgia,” Modesty replies, voice low and disappointed. “Is that any way to greet an old friend?” “Are you kidding me?” “I am not,” Modesty says. “Now stop this and come with me.” “You decapitated me!” Georgia shouts. “With a sword!” “And I don’t want to have to do it again,” Modesty says, “but you’re putting things much bigger than you in jeopardy, and I can’t allow that.” Georgia pepper-sprays him. The bus unfortunately doesn’t roll up just when she needs to make her emergency exit, so she sprints away, leaving Modesty coughing and hacking and rubbing his eyes with the midnight fabric of his robes. It’s a hike back to her apartment, so she’s hacking her lungs out just as much by the time she makes it home. Soaked in sweat like a despised teacher in an elementary school fun day dunk tank, Georgia unlocks her door with shaky fingers and staggers inside, collecting her prepacked escape bag. She opens the door again to leave, sees Modesty standing there, and screams. His eyes are rimmed slightly with red, and his voice is less tranquil than usual. “Don’t make this more complicated than it needs to be.” Georgia fumbles for her pepper spray again, and in a voice that Georgia would almost dare describe as worried, he says, “Do not - spray me again - or next time I will go right to the sword.” Georgia’s hands still. “What do you want from me?” Modesty frowns. “I want you to fulfill your destiny.” “I can’t!” Georgia says. “We’ve been over this! I can’t do it! You’ve got the wrong girl!” “The universe does not make mistakes.”

46


“If not, then you do.” Modesty raises an eyebrow. “Am I the only one here who remembers how this has gone every single time I tried it?” Georgia asks desperately. “I’ve never understood the whole timeline situation, but I know you know what’s already happened to me. I can’t do it. I can’t! I know the world is going to end because I’m the only person between it and the Neverending and I’m just not good enough! So please just let me live my life before it ends!” “Hm,” Modesty says, and Georgia genuinely thinks he’s considering it, but then he says, “No,” and decapitates her again. On her seventh life, Georgia tells her mom. Unfortunately, this almost gets her institutionalized. It does keep her under enough scrutiny that she can’t make a break for it this time around, but she doubts it would work anyways. She does briefly wonder if she is in fact crazy, so when Modesty appears next to her in the backyard only a month after her encounter with The Orb, she lifts the sunglasses from her eyes and says, “You’re real, right?” “Georgia,” Modesty says, “we are much too far behind schedule for you to have an existential crisis right now.” “Great.” Georgia relaxes back into the lawn chair. She’s learned her lesson about running away. “Deeply helpful as always. Please don’t kill me again.” Modesty’s mouth puckers into a lemonlike little frown. “I’ve never intended to hurt you, Georgia. I really am trying to help. But you’re not cooperating.” “Let’s play this out for a second.” Georgia stirs the little umbrella in her lemonade in tiny circles and takes an obnoxiously loud sip. “Say I go with you. Train again. Fight the Neverending again. Then what happens?” Modesty says, “You die again.” Georgia puts down her lemonade and sits up straight. “Run that by me again,” Georgia says. “You die again,” Modesty repeats. “You’re not strong enough to defeat the Neverending. Not yet. But every time it kills you, you take into yourself a piece of its power. Which is why we’ve locked you into this loop. But you’ve wasted two cycles now, and my sword can only harness a fraction of the energy the Neverending can. We’re behind schedule, and you’re going to have to make up for it before we run out of cycles.” Georgia blinks. Quite a few times.

47


In a tone that is definitely hysterical, she says, “And you couldn’t have told me that the first time around?” “No one wants to die,” Modesty says. “Uh, yeah! No shit, Modesty! Me included!” “Unfortunately, you’re going to have to.” “I don’t want to! It hurts! A lot!” “If the world ends,” says Modesty in a perfectly reasonable tone, “it will hurt more.” “Why is this my responsibility?” Georgia demands. “You said - you’re the ones who made the loop? Why couldn’t you just have chosen someone else?” “That is not information you can be privy to at this time.” “I don’t want to die!” Georgia says. She’s certifiably yelling now. “I don’t want to exist to die! I want to live! I want to go to university and get a job and kiss a girl and move to another city that isn’t an arcane sanctuary that I’m living in to learn how to defeat a cosmic threat that’s managed multiple times to eat my reality!” “You don’t have that choice, Georgia,” Modesty says. Georgia throws her lemonade at him. The glass shatters against his shiny bald head and falls in equally shiny pieces on the grass underneath him. “So kill me again,” she says. He doesn’t. “Kill me,” Georgia repeats. “What’s wrong? Forgot your sword?” Modesty doesn’t respond. “Oh, shit,” she says, heart racing, gears turning. Now that she isn’t all worked up about being a six-time sacrificial lamb, she’s connecting the dots. “You can’t. You’re too far behind schedule.” With difficulty, Modesty says, “We are.” “So,” Georgia says. “What now?” The sun is in her eyes. She blinks the glare away, and Modesty disappears. A month later, he appears in step with her as she walks to school. Georgia’s heart kicks into overdrive. She really doesn’t want to die. She keeps her mouth shut. “The mathematics are difficult,” Modesty says. “The fairest solution, I think, would be to allow you one normal lifetime before you return to your destiny. But we cannot offer that, because the world is going to end in five years.” Georgia manages not to say Hate when that happens. She nods. “But think of it this way,” Modesty says. “You’re already stuck in the loop.

48


The best option is to just follow through. Once you’ve successfully stopped the Neverending, you’ll have the rest of your life to live normally.” Georgia continues walking. “Georgia,” Modesty says. “It’s not our fault that the world is ending.” “And how do I know that?” Georgia says. “You’re being extraordinarily selfish,” Modesty replies. “Oh, definitely,” Georgia says. “You don’t think I’ve earned it?” “You are not the only person affected by the apocalypse,” Modesty says. “Billions of lives are at stake. We have been working to save the world for longer than you can imagine.” Georgia says, “So save it.” “The

Neverending

will

arrive

whether you’re obstinate about it or not,” Modesty says. “I know,” Georgia says. They walk in silence. “Give me the five years,” Georgia says. “I’m not stupid. I understand what’s at stake. I just… I need this.” Modesty doesn’t answer. “I still remember your training,” Georgia says. “I’ll come through when it matters. However many times it takes. I’ll die for the world, just let me live for myself.” Modesty says, “Okay.” The world ends in five years. Georgia tries to stop it, and for the seventh time, she dies.

49


50


UNTITLED FOR NOW Written by Audra Crago Illustrated by Shelby Talbot I want to be a Girl The way that angels are girls: With flowing white cotton hugging waists, Bare feet that won’t be made to bleed by the glass they step on. Ephemeral physicality, but a forever impression.

But I am only a girl In that I blush when you say my name, In that I pinch my skin where I find something I don’t like, In that I've cried in seven fitting rooms And then blamed it on the skinny bitches in the checkout line. I want to be a Boy The way that they appear: Leaning languidly against windowpanes, Hair dripping rain and coffee breath that’s still sweet. He moves like he knows how: In an unpredictable way. An unattainable way. Even his knuckles seem gentle As they brush my cheek.

But I am only a boy In that I often wish I was. In that I can’t skip stones but always wanted to know how. In that I longed to be reckless in the way he was, Because part of me always felt proud of The scrapes on my knees.

51


I want to love a Girl The way I did when I first discovered them: With flower crowns and blankets over shoulders, The alcoholic scent of polish being removed. She unravels my hair, deft Deaf to my best attempts to stay braided.

But I love a girl In that I do until I don’t. I reject her like an organ When the fever gets too high And strip the bed As soon as she leaves.

I want to love a Boy The way Liepke paints them: Hands travelling over the valleys of a ribcage, My own curls tangled with his. When he lays his head in my lap, I am as much for him as he is for me.

But I love a boy In that Dorian way: With the ugly in the attic And both of you under the sheets— It's almost better than the real thing.

But if I am honest I would just as gladly take your hand in mine And call it a day. And if I am honest, Walking on glass doesn’t hurt anymore Since I started taking my coffee with cream.

52


53


54


55


Written by Harrison Stuart Illustrated by Audra Crago Around twelve he slipped into the boardwalk diner; a cheap little place that reeked of nineties sensibilities. He’d had too many beers to pass for sober, but too few to really be drunk. His belly was warm. His vision spun softly when he looked in one spot for too long. Sinking into the booth was relaxing, the pleather cracked but soft enough, a comfortable spot to bask in his faint boozy glow. The greasy smell of burgers cooking reminded him that he was hungry. He decided he’d order a meal as soon as he could convince himself to stand up. She was sitting at a booth in the other corner of the diner, looking at her phone, eating french fries one by one. Absent-mindedly, he stared at her dark hair and her collarbones. He watched her dip a fry into yellow mustard and put it in her mouth. Red lips. She was alone. He was alone too. Before his eyes could drift further, she stood up a little stiffer, and stared back at him. She was still holding a french fry. He didn’t expect to talk to her. It happened before he paused to think. —French fries and mustard? Is that a thing? She paused for a second and looked at the fry in her hand. He held his breath, until he heard a laugh. —I don’t like ketchup! He smiled back at her, paused for a moment. His legs didn’t move. Then they did, and he sat across from her. She was still smiling, but less so. He wanted her to smile. —How has your night been? He hated the question as soon as he asked it. It seemed so lazy and typical. She answered it anyway. —My friend got too drunk too early, so I had to take her home before she did something dumb. Didn’t really want to go back to the club, so I figured I would eat something and head home. What about your night? She ate another french fry, and he tried not to watch too closely. —I didn’t feel like dancing anymore, and I got kind of sick of my friends, so I pulled an Irish exit. I’m hungry. I came here. Sometimes, you just need a burger, you know? 56


It felt stupid when he said it. She tilted her head and bent her lips into a soft, sympathetic frown. —Friends giving you a hard time? That sucks. He laughed but didn’t mean it. —It’s nothing. It’s just kind of like that sometimes. She glanced back to her phone for a second, then they made eye contact again. Her eyes were powder blue. He knew he would remember that. —Hey, I’m gonna order some food. Don’t run off on me? Again, the words didn’t feel right. Too possessive. He worried possessive meant threatening, and imagined himself as a creepy, predatory character he didn’t want to be. But she still smiled as he hauled himself to his feet and walked to the counter. Ordering his food, the decision not to look back at her was tangible. He told himself that he wasn’t going to do it and he didn’t. She glanced up from her phone and watched him sit back down across from her, clutching a paper cup full of cola. —What’s your name, anyway? His heart jumped a little. He sipped the drink to buy himself a moment. —Benjy. —Benjy? Not just Ben? —It’s what my family used to call me. My friends caught on. I guess it never went away. He closed his eyes for a second and shrugged, then continued. —It’s grown on me. I don’t like it when people call me Benjamin, or Ben. That’s not me. I’m Benjy. She laughed a little. —It’s cute. —You never gave me your name, you know. —I’m Laura. This time, he smiled. He pinched the straw in his drink with his index and middle finger and took a sip. —That’s a really pretty name. —Thanks. She ate two more fries, and he sipped his cola. —Did your friend get home safe? She frowned a little. —Yeah. —You say that like it’s a bad thing. —It’s not—I mean, of course it’s not a bad thing—but it happens a lot, you know? It’s exhausting. 57


He paused for a moment, nervously. —Her getting too drunk? She nodded and he continued. —It’s good you’re around then. She sighed. —It burns me out. —You’re a good friend for doing it, though. She paused for a second, then spoke tentatively. —Why’d you ditch your friends tonight? —I guess, well, I didn’t really ditch them, we got separated, y’know. They went one direction, I went the other, figured it was probably time to head home. — Does that happen a lot? He reclined and looked away from her. —Yeah. While neither of them was looking at one another, he wondered what to say next. He wondered if she was thinking the same thing. But when he looked up again, she was on her phone. A flash of panic surprised him. He spoke without thinking. —You think technology is tearing us apart? Her brow furrowed. —What? He looked away and drummed his fingers on the table restlessly. —Y’know, like, ruining human interaction. It’s not good. We don’t really see one another anymore. Just through screens. Facebook. Tinder, TikTok, Twitter. It’s superficial. Feels kind of wrong. He leaned back and nervously laughed to himself. She looked away, out of the booth, then back at him. —I guess? I don’t know. She ate her last french fry and stood up. He paused and swallowed. —Hey, can I get your number? It immediately hit him how odd that must sound, right after a tirade against technology. —Weren’t you just saying technology is dumb? —I mean, it is convenient. She smirked at him and held out her hand. He passed her his phone. Watching her input her number, the air seemed very stiff. He didn’t think he was doing this right. Something was missing, something genuine, and he tried to reach out for it. —Hey, it was nice to meet you. Thanks for giving me a chance. She tilted her head and bantered back. —Any reason I shouldn’t have? As soon as she said it, he wanted to be clever. He imagined himself spouting a slick 58


one-liner, leaning back a little, taking his phone and closing the interaction with a warm smile. —I mean, I am a wanted killer in like, four states. Don’t ask me where the bodies are! She grimaced and his gut sank. —That’s pretty tasteless. He felt a little dizzy but made his best attempt at a reassuring smile. —Don’t worry, I mean, I wouldn’t hurt you. She put his phone back on the table facedown and stammered something he didn’t quite catch. All he picked up on was his name—a hushed, unmistakable ‘Benjy’—and then she was walking out the door, gone. He didn’t try to say anything because he didn’t think there was anything to say. Her number was only half-typed out and he erased it immediately. The back of his neck crawled. Somebody brought him his food. He stared at it. Was he still hungry? He felt nauseous. The greasy burger didn’t smell too good anymore. He dipped a french fry in a dollop of ketchup and didn’t bother to eat it. Over the better part of twenty minutes, he dragged himself through half of his burger and a few fries, dumping the rest in the trash. After that, he moved to another booth and laid down on his back, staring at the fluorescent lights on the ceiling. When he flicked his eyes away from them, the purple impressions on his vision slid across the white popcorn ceiling. He kept doing this, staring at the lights, watching the impressions slide, actively thinking about not thinking about every moment of his talk with Laura. He wondered how long it would be before he forgot that name. Two weeks? Two years? Leaving the diner was automatic. He found himself outside on the boardwalk by the water. People walked by but he kept his eyes to himself. Staring past the railing, he looked at the beach. A moment passed and he hauled himself up onto the railing, feet dangling off the edge, safely, only a meter or so above the ground. He wouldn’t risk hurting himself. It was too dark to see the ocean beyond the sand, but he could hear the water, smell the sea air. A few minutes passed. The smell of tobacco smoke drifted by. It occurred to him that this would be a great moment to smoke a cigarette. It would look very cool. Rejected, listening to the water, out in the dark, back to all the passersby. A man on the edge. But he didn’t smoke cigarettes. If he did smoke one now, chances are he would have a coughing fit, and that wouldn’t be very cool at all. For some reason, that thought cheered him up just a little. It was a funny idea, trying to look cool and hacking up a lung. He swung his feet around back onto the boardwalk and spotted the smokers across the street. There were five or six of them, chatting outside of a dingy bar. He wondered what they were talking about. He was surprised by how much he cared. Sitting down on a bench, he watched the smokers file back inside, and stared through the windows into the bar. There were people in there, he mused. Most of them were drunk. Embarrassing themselves. Students stumbled in and out of the front doors, walking, talking, laughing. A tall boy ordered two beers, passing one to a girl who fixed her hair and smiled before taking it. 59


RETURN OF THE GAZE in George Egerton’s “Now Spring Has Come” Written by Emery Stayzer Illustrated by Karen Au The Aestheticism movement of the nineteenth century emphasized pleasure and experience. However, it also perpetuated a gendered hierarchy between the spheres of men and women: men dominated the public while women faced confinement within the domestic. Male artists and flâneurs had the privilege of observing and “prescribing aesthetic value” to places, things, and people (Cameron 1). This aesthetic value became evident in representations of the ideal feminine muse, leading to the viewer vs. viewed dynamic, and relegating women to the position of passive muse for male observance. In her text “Now Spring Has Come”, George Egerton explores this dynamic through the perspective of an anonymous female protagonist who returns the narrative-framing gaze, engaging with desire and sexuality in a society defined by male experience. Drawing upon Laura Mulvey’s theory of the male gaze to analyze this text, I argue that Egerton’s speaker returns the gendered gaze and reclaims her agency as an active participant in the narrative. The speaker gazes back at the anonymous male character in protest of his scopophilic view of her, utilizing a scopophilic viewpoint of her own to reclaim her agency. She does so as a means of solidifying her active role in the narrative, despite his efforts to relegate her as passive. Similar to the New Woman archetype, who “refused to be contained by their culturally assigned gender roles,” the protagonist reverses both gender roles and the gaze as she actively seeks out her male suitor (Nelson 9). As the discovery of the male character’s novel is what motivates the speaker’s attraction to him, she returns the gaze traditionally placed upon the idealized female muse by male artists. Instead, the artistic medium of the novel

facilitates the placement of the male character as passive muse for the female

speaker’s observance. Finally, the anonymous female protagonist rejects the

gaze of the impressionistic male artist who finds power in observing

the female muse, by controlling representations of herself and her

body.


She achieves this through the fragmentation and detailed descriptions of her suitor’s body as well as her own, challenging “assumptions about who is the viewer and who is the viewed” (Henderson 206). Thus, Egerton’s protagonist in “Now Spring Has Come” returns the gaze of her male suitor and refutes her position as passive object for a man’s viewing pleasure. Egerton’s protagonist returns the gaze of the male character by engaging in scopophilia. Mulvey defines scopophilia as “the erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person as an object…it can become fixated into a perversion, producing obsessive voyeurs” (1957). The voyeuristic perspective produced by scopophilia reinforces the male gaze as it allows male subjects to look at women as sexual objects for their viewing pleasure. As the speaker in “Now Spring Has Come” reverses the gendered power dynamic perpetuated by the male gaze, she becomes the viewer instead of the viewed and reclaims her agency. By reversing the scopophilic viewpoint she objectifies the man’s body, restricting his ability to do the same to her. Upon their first meeting the speaker says, “The door opens, and I am satisfied. In the space of second’s gaze I meet what my soul has been waiting for” (Egerton 25). In this quotation, it is evident that the speaker becomes the voyeur as she looks at her male suitor as an object for her viewing pleasure. She explains that she is “satisfied” with his appearance, illustrating her sexual desire and agency as she makes judgements about his body. In contrast to the gendered divisions of the Victorian period, it is the woman who prescribes aesthetic value in this situation, instead of the man. Her engagement with scopophilia is also evident when she says, “I look into his soul through his eyes and…his soul comes to me as I would have it come to me” (28). The speaker not only owns the gaze but also expresses her control over how the man’s soul presents itself to her. She further objectifies him as she looks beyond the surface of his appearance and into his soul, highlighting her ownership of the gaze. In demonstrating her refusal to be passive, the protagonist takes possession of the gaze and secures an active role in their relationship. Egerton’s speaker also initiates the return of the gaze by actively seeking out the male character. After reading his novel, the speaker says, “I was consumed with a desire to see and know the author…I have a will of my own, so I set to work to find him” (Egerton 23). Her word choice demonstrates the active role she plays in the narrative as she works to get in contact with the man, as well as her sexual desire towards him. The protagonist’s willful assertion highlights her agency and refusal of passivity. Mulvey explains that the male gaze creates “a world ordered by sexual imbalance, [in which] the pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female” (1959). In other words, the male gaze portrays women as passive objects for male pleasure. . However, this is not the case for Egerton’s protagonist. Instead, she initiates contact with the male character and positions him as her muse, as his writing inspires her on an emotional level and facilitates her attraction. When she finds his novel in the bookstore, the owner cautions her against reading it, as “it is a very bad book…

61


one of the modern realistic school, a tendenz roman” (Egerton 23). Despite the disapproval she receives from the bookseller, the speaker makes her own choice without consulting a chaperone, rebelling against decorum expected of women in this period (Allen 256). In doing so, she projects her gaze onto the male character and solidifies her role as an active participant in the narrative. The speaker obtains agency in returning the gaze of the male character due to her “self-reliance and power of initiation” (Winchester 176). By actively seeking him out, the narrator reverses the male gaze onto her suitor and confirms her authority in the power dynamic of their relationship. Furthermore, the protagonist controls representations of her physical appearance as she returns the gaze through a process of bodily fragmentation. The male gaze results in a level of voyeuristic control that leads to fragmentation of the female body (Mulvey 1958). In this text, the speaker directs voyeuristic control and fragmentation towards the male character, challenging the dynamic of man as viewer and women as viewed. She describes his body in segments: “His hands, for instance, are great labourer’s hands, freckled too; I don’t like his gait either, indeed a dozen things…a great joyous boyish laugh with a deep musical note in it. He has a deferential manner and a very caressing smile; a trick, too, of throwing back his head and tossing his crest of hair” (Egerton 25-6). By fragmenting his body, the speaker reflects the male gaze back onto her suitor. She asserts her dominant gaze by discussing his body based on her subjective view, eroticizing the elements she likes and condemning those she does not. Additionally, by pointing out the parts of his body that she does not like, the speaker establishes her ability to prescribe his body with aesthetic value. As expressed in the introduction of this paper, prescribing aesthetic value was a privilege typically wielded by men within this period. However, in this text, the speaker has “been herself expanding” instead of submitting to the male gaze, drawing parallels with the New Woman archetype (Ouida 155). In constructing him based on her subjective view, Egerton’s protagonist positions herself as the viewer who inflicts her gaze upon the male character and designates him as passive muse for female viewing pleasure. As the speaker controls representations of her own character, she rejects the impressionistic gaze of the male artist and objectification from the male gaze as a whole. For instance, before departing on the steamer the speaker states, “Would I give him a portrait of myself? Yes, I would get one specially done” (Egerton 27). This quotation illustrates that the speaker holds the power in determining the artistic representation of her body. She is in control. By expressing that she “would get one specially done,” (27) the speaker also suggests that she will not allow the male character to create an image of her from his subjective view. She will provide him with a portrait based on her own self-construction, dissolving his power to objectify her. The artist’s lack of control in this situation disrupts his ability to subordinate the muse, as well as his projection of meaning onto her body (Henderson 202).

62


The speaker achieves a reversal of power and return of the gaze by eliminating the man’s confinement of her as a passive object. The giving of a portrait also suggests a level of voyeurism, as the image looks back at the viewer from the canvas. As Mulvey explains, the male gaze is comprised of a division of labour, where women are defined by their “to-belooked-at-ness,” and men are the bearers of the gaze (1959). In Egerton’s text, the speaker reverses this division of labour by looking back at the man from her portrait. That is to say, although the speaker provides her suitor with the portrait so that he can look at her, she returns his gaze by controlling the depiction of her body in the portrait. She also returns the gaze as her image looks back at the man from within the frame. By controlling the artistic representation of her body and gazing back at the male character both literally and figuratively, the speaker asserts her agency. She also maintains control of her representation as she refuses to internalize the male character’s attempts to relegate her as passive. After he comments on her thin body, pale face, and lack of “buoyant childishness that was so attractive,” the speaker analyzes him in return: “I wanted to sift this thing thoroughly to get clear into my head what ground I was standing on. So I let him [kiss me]. They were merely lip kisses; his spirit did not come to mine, and I was simply analysing them” (31). As she returns his analytical gaze, the protagonist externalizes her agency and refuses to accept belittlement from the male character. The speaker’s resistance in this exemplar is similar to that of the New Woman, who believes that “man merely made himself a nuisance with his opinion and advice” (Ouida 154). The protagonist is once again the viewer as she looks back at the man and critiques him, maintaining agency over her own representation. The female protagonist achieves additional control over her representation as she retrospectively critiques her own body, rejecting the male gaze and turning it back upon her suitor. As she is waiting to meet him for the first time, she says “I wait with an odd feeling that I am outside myself, watching myself as it were. I can see the very childishness of my figure, the too slight hips and bust, the flash of rings on my fingers” (Egerton 25). Through the critique of her body, the speaker reclaims her agency as she eliminates the man’s power to eroticize her body. She describes herself as “childish” and lacking curves, which differs from the ideal impressionistic muse that the male gaze imparts on its subjects. The speaker also maintains her level of power as retrospection allows her to critique her body from her own perspective, as well as from the perspective of men (Henderson 206). The text demonstrates this when the protagonist says she “tried to fancy how he saw me” (Egerton 26). As she examines herself from both perspectives, the speaker understands her body as more than a sexualized object that is passive for male pleasure. In reference to the New Woman, Boyd Winchester writes that a “man loves only what pleases him,” (178) suggesting that the goal of the protagonist aligns with those of the New Woman: sexual and bodily freedom outside of the domestic sphere. To rephrase, the speaker critiques her body in a way that removes

63


power from the male character, as he is unable to sexually objectify her. As her body changes upon their second meeting and no longer fits his idealized image, the speaker highlights the oppressive nature of the male gaze: “he thought of me as a dream lady with dainty hands, idealized me – and wrote to that dream creature” (Egerton 31). The speaker is therefore successful in turning the gaze back upon the male character as she addresses his oppressive idealization, demonstrating that her body does not exist for the viewing pleasure of men. Instead, she an active participant in society who “make[s] her own choice[s] and guide[s] her life in the way that seems good to her” (Allen 257). She is her own woman, a body who does not exist to fulfill the desires of the male gaze; in fact, a body who exists in spite of it. The concluding line of Egerton’s text questions the prevalence of the male gaze in Victorian society and highlights its confinement of women. The speaker asks, “Do you really think that crinolines will be worn?” (Egerton 33). Crinolines refer to the rigid petticoat that women of this period wore underneath their skirts to provide them with a more attractive

shape or appearance (“Crinolines”). The speaker’s incredulous

intonation when she asks this question illustrates the discomfort

around the garments themselves and is symbolic of her

discomfort in a society defined by the male gaze. Lisa Hager

explains that “when Egerton’s female characters have the most agency

to choose what sort of life they want to lead…they remain inside the system

that they seek to challenge” (5). Hence, the speaker remains within her

relationship with the male suitor in order to successfully return the gendered gaze. Concluding the text with an emphasis on the speaker’s indignant self-determination suggests that she desires something more for herself, perhaps a future where women have agency and do not face confinement as passive objects for male observance. In “Now Spring Has Come”, Egerton’s protagonist questions the male gaze and reflects it back onto her suitor, resisting passivity and reversing gendered power dynamics. Ultimately, Egerton’s protagonist disrupts the power dynamic of the male gaze and repositions herself as an active participant in society instead of the passive muse for sexual objectification. By engaging in scopophilia, the speaker reverses the gendered gaze to reclaim her agency as she looks back at her suitor. As she initiates contact and pursues a relationship with the male character, she relegates him to the passive muse for her enjoyment, reversing gender and power dynamics that position the man as viewer. In fragmenting the male body and disrupting the viewer vs. viewed dynamic, the protagonist rejects the gaze from the impressionistic male artist and gains control of her own representation. Despite its obvious connections with New Woman literature, Egerton’s text also addresses issues of gender inequality, illustrating how Mulvey’s ideas about the male gaze extend beyond the context of cinema. The male gaze is universal and continues to fragment the bodies of women, restricting them to the role of a passive muse for male pleasure.

64


Works Cited Allen, Grant. “The Girl of the Future.” The Universal Review 7, 1890, pp. 49-64. Cameron, S. Brooke. “The Flâneur (Can There be a Flâneuse?).” ENGL 451 Topics in Victorian Lit I: Decadents, Dandies, & New Women F21. Queen’s University, 28 Sept. 2021, Kingston, ON. Lecture Notes. “Crinoline.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., https://www.britannica. com/topic/crinoline. Accessed 1 Dec. 2021. Egerton, George. ““Now Spring Has Come”.” A New Woman Reader: Fiction, Articles, and Drama of the 1890s, edited by Carolyn Christensen Nelson, Broadview Press, 2001, pp. 22-33. Hager, Lisa. “A Community of Women: Women’s Agency and Sexuality in George Egerton’s Keynotes and Discords.” Nineteenth-Century Gender Studies, vol. 2, no. 2, Summer 2006, pp. 1-26. MLA International Bibliography, http://www.ncgsjournal.com/. Accessed 26 Nov. 2021. Henderson, Kate K. “Mobility and Modern Consciousness in George Egerton’s and Charlotte Mew’s Yellow Book Stories.” English Literature in Transition 1880-1920, vol. 54, no. 2, Spring 2011, pp. 185-211. Gale Academic OneFile, https://go-gale-com.proxy.queensu. ca/ps/i.do?p=AONE&u=queensulaw&id=GALE%7CA246534600&v=2.1&it=r. Accessed 28 Nov. 2021. Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, W. W. Norton & Company, 2018, pp. 1954-1965. Nelson, Carolyn C. “Introduction.” A New Woman Reader: Fiction, Articles, and Drama of the 1890s, edited by Carolyn Christensen Nelson, Broadview Press, 2001, pp. 9-14. Ouida. “The New Woman.” A New Woman Reader: Fiction, Articles, and Drama of the 1890s, edited by Carolyn Christensen Nelson, Broadview Press, 2001, pp. 153-160. Winchester, Boyd. “The Eternal Feminine.” A New Woman Reader: Fiction, Articles, and Drama of the 1890s, edited by Carolyn Christensen Nelson, Broadview Press, 2001, pp. 176-180.

65


66


Written by Fiona Mulrooney Illustrated by Audra Crago

streaming into the liffey

down the street, rivers

white and lovely

pour into mouths

like the young women walking

decent private and curtained

67


68


WE MUST BE EVEN, IF WE ARE HERE Written by Urooj Salar Illustrated by Cristina Soares

I never liked country songs until I listened to them, and you never liked me until you met me, so I guess we're even. And every few months, I find flowers molding in my textbooks and in all my drawers are those crushed paper swans, the ones you folded from my calculus notes. And it tastes bad but you like it because it feels the way they said it would on TV, between re-runs of old American shows we never finished. And you thought you cleaned up all the pieces, but glass is good at breaking and cuts when you don’t expect it: I tell you it's okay your brother died because now your parents will love only you. And all I’ve ever done is measure things, like my grade point average, so I'm sorry I thought love could be split evenly into pieces like each of the five birthday cakes my mother cuts every year. And I never liked country songs until I listened to them, and you never liked me until you met me.

69


June 2002, Before It was early in June when the storm hits us. It didn’t do much damage, besides ripping away one of the biggest branches from the maple tree. Just a week after we moved into this house, our neighbours told us about that half-dead, century-old tree, and how the original owners didn’t want to cut it down when they were making property lines. They paid more to have it on their side—our side now. The branch that fell was about two feet in diameter and at least fifteen feet long. It crushed the flower beds. Back in May, I had told my mother not to plant the newly living next to the dying; the universe would smite us. She said the flower beds were a birthday gift for my sister. My mother and my sister don’t get along, but they both liked flowers. They had another fight this morning. Right before the flower bed was crushed. The yelling started when my sister got home that morning. She was supposed to be home

70


Written by Urooj Salar Illustrated by Karen Au

earlier, as in the night before. The yelling stopped when the glass shattered. Only for a minute though, to make sure everyone was okay. When it started again, it was louder. The weather was calmer by the evening, but it was still raining. My sister took her car (a seagreen Beetle she’d bought from a garage in North Bay), a duffel bag filled with the clothes my mother hated, and she left. *** The rain had stopped by the next morning. My father was chopping the fallen parts of the tree into firewood, and my mother and I helped stack it in piles at the back of the garage. The wind was still strong after the storm. Damp socks pruned my toes. My sister didn’t hug me when sheleft . She said she didn’t want to say goodbye; she was going to see me at school on Monday anyway. My father swung the axe, lodging it in the stump before straightening his back to look at me. His hat was pulled low over his head.

71


“Chai?” I smiled. “I’ll make some right now.” The storm door chased me on my way in. It had bit at my heels that spring, and even though my father had fixed it so it slowed before it closed, I couldn’t help hopping over the threshold anyway. The landline was ringing, the shrill sound piercing the silence of the house. I picked it up. “Hello?” “Hi, this is Dr. Brannen from Ottawa General Hospital. Whom am I speaking with?”

November 2002, After

Corn is interesting. In the autumn when we harvest, it’s covered in soft leaves and fine hairs, like down feathers on a duckling. This year, the crops didn’t grow the corn big enough, so we didn’t bother harvesting it. I say “crop” and “harvesting” like we live on a farm—we don’t. My parents just like to grow everything in the summer. Well, my father grows everything, my mother grows the corn and the flowers. The corn crop is dead now, though it will stand until next summer when we plow over it to plant the new corn. The corn husks are dry and falling apart, revealing the blackened ears with most of the fruit missing, the rest like rotting teeth. The leaves don’t crumble between my fingers like the tassels do. If you push on the dried stalk, it will stay straight and tough. When you push hard enough, usually just a little harder than the first time, it gives all at once and bends right over, creasing where the force was too much to bear. Like it was bluffing, and you gave away its weaknesses.

72


My mother hasn’t spoken much since the funeral. She gardened a lot in the summer, though. It’s winter now, or it’s supposed to be, so she can’t really garden anymore. She sits inside, warming her hands in front of the fireplace, stoking it with the wood from the old maple. Her clothes smell of smoke. My rubber boots are on the bricks again, the ones that my sister placed around the outside edge of our little corn crop, so she could get to the back of the garden to call her friend without our mother listening and without wrecking her shoes in the muddy spring and the even muddier fall. I tried to paint a portrait of her once as she stood back there, her bleached hair blending in with yellowed crops. I like stepping off the bricks sometimes, just to feel how my foot sinks into the water or into the mud when I don’t expect it to. I guess I should expect it most of the time, but some places look solid until I step. The movement of a mouse makes me scream. I am startled easily, and I think the bundle of hay I just stepped on was the mouse’s home. I don’t look back as I hop quickly from brick to brick until I am at the decomposing pumpkin patch. I wanted to make it to the end of the garden and touch the fence that she would lean against for hours, like it means something. But then, I would have to make my way back because it doesn’t actually mean anything. There could be more mice over there, so I don’t go. The thought makes my stomach turn, like looking at cell slides in science class right after eating lunch. I was supposed to start my senior year of high school almost three months ago. There is no snow yet, but everything is almost frozen. Our garden hose winds around the dead leaves and the drying stems of squash plants. I hope this one is the broken one, the one that doesn’t attach to any nozzles. My father said something the other day about winding up the hoses before they freeze. If he forgot this one, it may be too late to save it now.

73


May 2003, Now My sister’s room is on the side of the house closest to the train tracks. It is early in the afternoon when the train passes, and I wake up. The pencil cup on her desk rattles and the clothespins holding up Polaroids of the places she liked to visit tap against the walls haphazardly. I’m not quite sure what closure is, but recently, I’ve found myself sleeping in her bed. I wish my father didn’t change the sheets every week and vacuum her carpet like she still lived here, like she still lived at all. I want to sleep on the pillowcase she slept on, breathe in her duvet, smell the perfume our mother told her was a waste of money. The only clothes in her closet are the ones she never wore. I didn’t cry at her funeral.

74


Some days I sit in her car with her CD player. They pulled the car out of the lake, so it doesn’t work. My father parked it in the garage anyway, in the corner where we stacked the firewood from the maple tree. Although I prefer my father’s old rock records and my mother’s jazz, I play her CDs anyway. I’ll never know what song she was listening to. I’ll never know if it hurt. The silence is loud when the music stops. I can hear everything but it sounds like nothing. Even that feels like too much. How can nothing feel like too much? I found her photo album the other day. My mother took down all her pictures the night that she left. While I don’t know where my mother stores them, I wish I had put them back up when we found out, because most times, when I saw her in my memory, I could never focus on her face or it would disappear. About a month ago, lightning hit what remained of the old maple tree. Only the stump is left. I read there sometimes. There were a few perennials in the flower bed, and they’re starting to push up through the soil. My mother says she expects them to bloom in a few weeks.

75


Contributors: thank you for your creativity, your time, and your words. It was a pleasure to work with you. Thank you to our latest members, Foster McAffee and Clarke Phillips for their photographs and other contributions to the wellbeing of Quilt. Readers: you may have reached the back cover, but not the end. We’ll see you for our next volume. Let us all acknowledge that Quilt was created on traditional Anishinaabe and Haudenosaunee territory. We are grateful to be able to live, learn, and play on these lands.

76



quilt: volume 2


Issuu converts static files into: digital portfolios, online yearbooks, online catalogs, digital photo albums and more. Sign up and create your flipbook.